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Dreaming of summer at the beach? Better act fast

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Real estate agents say that demand for rentals on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket is up strongly this year — along with the prices. Above: A view of Madaket Harbor off Nantucket.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Does the weekend's Arctic-like cold have you dreaming about summer vacations? You're not alone. But you may be late when it comes to finding a rental home for this summer on the Cape or Islands.

Real estate agents and others report a surge in bookings for summer vacation homes this year on Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket, with the number of signed weekly home leases running nearly 10 percent higher that for 2015, which was the best year since 2012.

Some property owners — though not all — are jacking up rates by nearly 15 percent over last year's prices as the economy continues to improve, gasoline prices fall, and people have more money in their pockets to spend for sailing along the coast, chowing down on lobster rolls, and frolicking on the beaches, real estate companies say.


"The rental activity has been extremely strong," said Tina LeBeau, a rental agent for Kinlin Grover Real Estate in Harwich Port. "I'm even getting requests for summer rentals in 2017, which I can't deal with right now. I'm too busy."

Other New England vacation spots are also seeing stronger demand and higher prices. In the Newport, R.I., area for example, home rentals and hotel bookings are up about 5 percent over last year's, said Evan Smith, president of Discover Newport, a tourism office.

Along the New Hampshire seacoast, "We're rocking and rolling," said Valerie Rochon, tourism director for the Greater Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce. "Our summer is looking very strong,"

Through Jan. 31, vacation home bookings on Cape Cod had climbed about 4 percent from the same period in 2015 and soared 16.4 percent on Martha's Vineyard and by 18.9 percent on Nantucket, according to WeNeedaVacation.com, a rental website.

Rates are following demand, and rising. On the Cape, the average rental price for a three-bedroom home, the most popular with families, is up about 5 percent. The average weekly rate for beachfront rentals on the Cape is just under $4,000, up from about $3,800 last summer, while walk-to-the-beach rentals are going for about $2,360.


On Martha's Vineyard, waterfront rental rates are up nearly 15 percent to $5,130 a week, while the prices for walk-to-the-beach abodes are holding steady at about $2,900 a week, according to WeNeedaVacation.com.

Ron Whitney, the owner of a four-bedroom home and guesthouse just outside downtown Edgartown, said he has already rented out his Martha's Vineyard property from June 25 through Labor Day, despite raising summer rents by 7.5 percent to $3,250 per week.

"There was no resistance to the price increase," he said. "I always try to keep our prices in line and I don't want to price ourselves out of the market. But we felt we could increase the rent this year. We still saw a lot of rental interest."

Charles Hammarstrom, who owns a three-bedroom house in Harwich Port on Cape Cod, said he raised his weekly rates by about 4 percent but had no problem renting out his non-waterfront property. He declined to say how much he's getting.

Hammarstrom and others said a stronger economy — the US and Massachusetts jobless rates are both below 5 percent — and falling gas prices, which have plunged by 25 percent over the past year, are contributing to the demand for summer rentals.

The Cape and Islands also are becoming more popular as summer destinations for national and international visitors, homeowners and tourism officials said.


"Cape Cod used to be more provincial, mostly a getaway place for New Englanders, but that's not true anymore," said Hammarstrom, a longtime Cape resident who lives in Arizona during the winter. "We're seeing more international interest in the Cape."

After Hurricane Sandy devastated the coasts of New Jersey and New York in 2012, many residents there opted to head to Cape Cod's beaches the following summer, said LeBeau, the rental agent. "Many of them had never been to the Cape before, and they ended up loving it," she said.

LeBeau and other industry officials said the effects of last year's harsh winter, which dumped more than 10 feet of snow on the Boston region, can still be felt on the Cape and Islands. Many people who vacationed on Cape Cod for the first time to expunge memories of the winter of 2015 are back this year, they said.

Judy Murray, a rental agent at Sandpiper Rentals Inc. in Edgartown, said people are booking homes and ferry service much earlier than in the past. Previously, summer rental activity would pick up in late January or early February. Now, phone calls start pouring in by late December or early January.

"People are planning earlier and they have more money to spend. It should be a great summer."

Jay Fitzgerald can be reached at jayfitzmedia@gmail.com.